It seemed like a Duck Dynasty evening from the get-go.
With songs about moonshine, NASCAR and fishin’ holes, U.S. country music star Brad Paisley brought his popular, flag-waving brand of Southern comfort to a northern arena on Thursday night.
And nearly 7,000 fervent fans packed Red Deer’s Centrium to hear the Grammy-winning hit-maker sing about a simpler, more rural and less politically correct way of life.
“Who’s ready for huntin’ season?” Paisley shouted out like a cowboy-hatted Elmer Fudd, before trucking out his Camouflage song about the multiple uses of military fabric.
His rhetorical question got a cheering response from the all-ages crowd that came from across Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan to listen to his music and two-step in the aisles.
Paisley went on to croon his latest Moonshine in the Trunk single as a vintage Camaro and its chrome pistons were prominently showcased on a large video screen behind him.
Ticks, a tune about good old-fashioned lust, was up next: “Every time you take a sip … I wish I was your beer,” sang Paisley, who also performed a playful rant against sissies, I’m Still a Guy, and This is Country Music, about saying what you think, regardless of whether it’s in fashion.
All these southern stereotypes might have been a bit much if Paisley wasn’t so gosh darned tongue-in-cheek about his redneck ways.
After regaling us with Red Deer jokes, Paisley discovered Edmonton and Calgary fans in the audience, too. After the Calgarians got booed, the singer asked which city Albertans hate the most? The answer was a no-brainer — Toronto.
“You’re just like Americans. You don’t like other people,” he joked.
Later, Paisley discovered a woman from Sweden in the crowd. He quipped, “What are you doing here? Haven’t you noticed they don’t like Toronto people here? What are they going to do to you if they find out you’re from Sweden?”
Anyone listening carefully to his lyrics would know American Saturday Night is actually a celebratory song about the cultural melting pot in the U.S. After all, the tune was performed alongside comic strip images of Captain America and his African American super-hero buddy, the Falcon.
Paisley also sang about the importance of seeing the world outside the U.S. South in Southern Comfort Zone.
Fans who can’t see past his incessant “Dixieland” references probably don’t realize the West Virginian is the son of a teacher, as well as being a former scholarship student who graduated from university with a business administration degree.
Well, you can’t blame the rednecks for claiming them as their own — Paisley harnesses the image so well in humourous songs, such as Mud on the Tires, I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song) and River Bank (which featured a video of a squirrel on waterskis).
His tunes (I’m Cooler) Online and Celebrity, which came with a video of a large-headed Paisley mascot riding on a wrecking ball in a body stocking, were a hoot.
But his more emotional tunes really resonated with the crowd — including a retired lady from Edmonton, who recently lost her husband and teared up at his rendition of Waitin’ on a Woman, accompanied by a video clip of the late Andy Griffith.
The World, She’s Everything, The Mona Lisa, Then, Perfect Storm and Letter to Me were among the more poignant songs Paisley performed along with his highly talented seven-man band (including Prince Albert, Sask., native Randle Currie on steel guitar).
Somebody’s grandfather might once have called them a “crackerjack band” and would have been right — Paisley included.
Turns out the country singer/songwriter is also a fantastic guitarist, as seen on the big screen when video cameras gave us a close-up of his fancy finger work.
To prevent the concert mood from turning too serious, Paisley put a comic spin on things by serving up his big hit Alcohol as an encore, before thanking the audience and his opening act, Brett Kissel, and exiting stage left.
It turns out the young Alberta performer has long had a Paisley connection. Kissel met the U.S. singer as a teenager and finally made good on Paisley’s promise (he admitted, “I never meant it at the time”) that the Canadian could one day open his concerts.
Kissel drew a huge contingent of friends and relatives to the Centrium, and made a great impression on the audience.
The energetic Flat Lake native opened the evening with his entertaining hits, including 3-2-1 and Started With a Song. He also sang a cover that was tailor-made for him — John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy.